Complpaint against Daily Voice

20 July 2011

Dear Natashia

The story headlined Eye for an eye – Gangster shot dead in ‘revenge hit’, published yesterday in the Daily Voice, refers.

You complain about:
* the picture;
* the fact that Mr Godfrey’s three children were not aware of the incident before they saw it in the paper; and
* the use of the words “alleged high-ranking gangster”.

I shall address these matters one by one:

The picture

You complain that the picture was published without the permission of the family and say that they are traumatised by it.

I can fully understand that the picture traumatises the family, as I would have felt the same if I were in your shoes.

However, the newspaper does not need your – or the Police’s – permission to publish.

I also take into account that Mr Godfrey’s face and the front part of his body is covered in the picture.

It would have been thoughtful if the newspaper informed the family of its intention to publish the picture. However, there is nothing in the Press Code that obliges it to do so.

Not aware

It is extremely sad that Mr Godfrey’s children were not aware of his death before they saw it in the newspaper.

The murder reportedly took place on Sunday night; the picture was published on the Tuesday. This gave the family enough time to inform everybody concerned. I cannot expect the newspaper to hold back a story because the mother of the children had to calm down first before the children could be told. Besides, how was the newspaper to know that the children were not informed yet?

If the newspaper published the picture on the Monday, it would have been a different kettle of fish. Then I would have expected the newspaper to ensure that the family knew before they publish.

‘Alleged high-ranking gangster’

The story itself uses the words “alleged” and “suspected” in connection with “gang member”.

I take into account that you have said that Mr Godfrey was a gang member before his marriage, as well as the context of the story (a probable retaliation attack after a “former gangster” was killed two weeks before).

I believe that this justified the newspaper to use the words in dispute.

‘Gangster’

The word “gangster” is used in the sub-headline. This is in breach of Art. 5.1 of the Press Code, as it is not reflective of the content of the story – it states an allegation (in the story) as a fact (in the headline).

However, I am not going to ask the newspaper to publish a correction, as further publication would probably cause your family even more trauma.

I am therefore dismissing your complaint, with sympathy to you and the family.

You can apply to the chairperson of the Press Appeals Panel, Judge Ralph Zulman, for leave to appeal, fully setting out your reasons for the application. He can be reached on khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Kind regards, and all the best for the days to come.

Johan